You’ve got an amazing handmade product. You’ve got your Etsy/Facebook/Instagram/Banking/Everything-Else-Under-The-Sun set up. Product Descriptions written. Pricing sorted...
OH RIGHT, and you quickly need to grab a picture and then all systems go!
Wait wait wait HOLD UP. You’ve taken all that time to skillfully make your product & set up your business, but a quick *snap snap* on your cell is all you’re going to do to document it? Not on our watch!
We’ve been photographing products for more than a couple years and have worked with some amazing photography professionals. We’ve learned that product photography is one of the MOST important aspects to your handmade business. And we’ve also learned that sharing is caring. So, we want to share some of the fantastic tips and tricks we’ve learned and pass them on to you.
You’ve probably heard the concept that half of the work put into something is usually in the set up! This is true with product photography as well! Your lighting, background, positioning -- it’s all important to have set up and ready for your photos.
- Lighting - Possibly the most important part of your setup is going to be lighting! Find yourself a bright window or countertop that has lots of natural light, but doesn’t have the sun streaming in. Place your light source (or window) on one side of your setup. In our case, we have a big window to the left of the frame, and let the light drop off on the right side. If you make sure to have one good quality bright light source you shouldn’t need any filler light from the other side.
Background - You think: ‘Easy right? Whatever is on my counter. Or table. Just a plain background will do, right?’ Well… maybe not.
Think about your product, the colors in it, your brand, & how you like to show your products. Do you want a white background? Do you want all of your product images to have a colored background? Whatever you do for this product, will you do for all your products moving forward? Do you like simpler images? Do you like to have background props in your photos? SO MANY QUESTIONS! But so important to think about.
Consider all of those things about YOUR brand and YOUR product and make your background from there. For us and our CaraSupply Brand, when we shoot products we love a crisp white background or a super colorful solid color background.
CaraTip? All you need is some nice quality colored construction paper. Our blue paper in this photo is an 8.5”x11”. But be careful! Anything with a sheen or gloss to it will reflect on your product. If you use wrapping paper, it can actually reflect color onto your product and misrepresent the colors. So why quality construction paper? It’s matte, which means the color won’t bounce off it.
Here’s what to do: Tape your paper up on either a box or the wall, about 4” from the counter/table. Let the paper form a gentle arch, and tape down the other end to the counter/table to keep it from sliding. This shape helps you avoid corner shadows and light variation. Photos are much easier if you have a solid foreground and background that are seamless!
3. Positioning - At this point, make sure that your product is in the middle of your photo set up, about 3” from the back. You don’t want your product sitting on the paper arch, but rather juuuust in front of it.
GROUPING & COMPOSITION
A good photo can be a super helpful way to show accurate size and color if your product varies between those things. But, if the setup is odd looking, has a big gap in the middle, or just doesn’t feel balanced, you’ll end up attracting the wrong attention from your customer! Instead of just looking at your product and deciding if they like it or not, their eye will be drawn to the oddity, and they’ll start to question the credibility of your shop. If you can’t take the time to set up a good quality picture, why should they take the time to buy your product?
- Grouping - When placing items try to keep balance in mind. If you have the option, always set up groupings in odd numbers (1, 3, 5, etc.). Odd numbers look more balanced! If that’s not possible, at least make sure that the even number of items you’re showing are balanced.
- Composition - a fancy word for ‘making things look balanced’. Your image composition helps people focus on your products. CaraTip? Face your products to your light source! They catch the best lighting and show the colors & texture of your product most accurately!
- Angles - Admit it, we all have a ‘best’ angle (your selfie game knows this to be true :P). Same concept applies to your photos! Just like you would never take a picture of yourself straight on, don’t do it to your products! If possible, a slight angle will be a more interesting photo, show more depth, and give you a more dynamic image. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules, but generally we’ve found this concept to be a game changer!
UPRIGHT PHOTOS vs FLAT-LAYS
When making your image composition you may find that standing your product up just isn’t possible. You usually have to choose between an upright photo (like the above images) or a flat-lay (everything shot from overhead). Either way will work and the basic principles still apply!
Specifically for flat-lay shots, a photo with depth is a more interesting image. We love shooting our products with a narrow depth of field (some things in focus but the background blurry). There are some amazing ways to do this, both with a dSLR or with your handy iPhone camera. CaraTip: If you want the focus to be on a specific thing or item, there’s a super simple way to make sure that item pops - all you need is a couple spare beads! Pop them down on your background and place your item on top. This raises your product into more focus, lets the background blur out a bit, and gives your photo more dimension.
dSRL CAMERA vs iPHONE CAMERA
Every shop hits this question at some point - do we need to invest in a GOOD camera or can I make due with what I have? (*cough* cellphone *cough*) A lot of small shops make the investment of getting a big dSLR camera to shoot products, and of course a good camera can make amazing photos! BUT you need to also know how to operate a dSLR, and that’s where a lot of shops lose out on their investment. They bought the expensive dSLR, have no idea how to use it or the lenses it comes with, and end up NOT using it because it's too confusing or takes too much time to figure out. The last thing you need is a super expensive paper weight hanging around in your office.
No one will tell you that you should or shouldn’t use a dSLR or your iPhone for product images. That’s your call to make for your shop.
But what we CAN tell you is that either will work. You can take beautiful pictures on a dSLR. You can take beautiful pictures on your iPhone (and the cameras on iPhone’s are only getting better!) All of our tips and tricks in this post will be applicable either way. Your shop. Your call.
Let us know in the comments below if you’ve found this post helpful! We would love to hear from you and any tips and tricks you can add to the list!